ANGLICANS in Waltham Forest are split over whether to move to the Catholic Church following an invitation by the Pope.

A decree issued earlier this month by Pope Benedict XVI provides a legal framework for members of the Church of England to join the Catholic communion.

St Margaret's, in Woodhouse Road, Leytonstone, St Michael's, in Palmerston Road, Walthamstow, and St Saviour's, in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow, all look set to take the Pope up on his offer.

But some Anglicans believe the Catholic Church’s opposition to the ordination of women and gay rights will be a stumbling block.

Father David Waller, of St Saviour's, said: “What's happened is the Church of England has been in increasing difficulties for many years now and one of the key issues was agreeing the ordination of women.

“It did so on the basis that provision would be made for those that didn't accept it but now it's moving towards making women bishops, it's taking back the structures it promised.”

Father Rob Page, of St Margaret's, added: “The Holy Father's offer has come as a positive-looking way forward.

“Clearly, we can't actually do anything until we see the document and ascertain what it means.”

He also said one of the major issues was authority, saying the ordination of women was just one 'symptom' of the issues within the Anglican Church.

Father Jon Ravensdale, of St Michael's, said: “My take is that it's an extremely generous offer. What surprises me is that my own Church can't make the same offer.”

But Rev Raymond Draper, of St John's in High Road, Leytonstone, reserved judgement on the idea.

He said: “I don't think we know how many people will feel this is right for them. The Church of England's special vocation is to embrace the best of the Catholic and Protestant traditions.

“We serve the whole community, irrespective of religious affiliation.”

Rev Draper added: “We should have enough maturity to allow people to follow their own conscience.”

However, he stressed his support for the ordination of women and for the open debate held on gay people's position within the Church of England.

“I'm comfortable being in a Church which is trying to treat women with respect and where gay people are treated with respect as well,” he said.